Dean Barbara Glesner Fines on Recent National Events

"Our nation is truly at a breaking point right now. My hope is that we, who are the ministers of the nation’s social fabric, can help it to become a turning point.”

Dear Law School Community,

Our nation is truly at a breaking point right now.  My hope is that we, who are the ministers of the nation’s social fabric, can help it to become a turning point. 

Perhaps like me, you have been struggling with how to respond.  Perhaps you have been motivated to take immediate action.  Each of us must choose whether reflection or action is our best way forward at this point.  For me, I know that what I must not do is ignore the gravity of this moment. 

 As a law school community, we have taken an oath to have “respect for people, for knowledge and ideas, and for justice.” In my affirmation of these values, I find some answers as to my next steps.  As a white woman who has not experienced the regular trauma of racism, respect means that I must acknowledge the limits of my own understanding and seek earnestly to learn.  I must resist the temptation to wash my hands of responsibility, but instead recognize my own part in a larger system.  Particularly as a lawyer and law professor, I must recognize that law can be as powerful a tool of oppression as it can be an instrument for freedom.

Respect for justice means that as I listen and learn, I must also act to address injustice, oppression, violence, and division.  I must not leave my neighbors, colleagues, and students of color to carry the burden of change.  This is a justice issue.  When I first took my oath as an attorney in 1983, I pledged that I would “never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed. So help me God.”

Each of us must decide for ourselves the meaning of that oath and how we live it out as attorneys.  For my part, I am recommitting to learning more deeply about racism and injustice in the legal system. I am contacting local officials and urging their attention and action.  I am searching for the ways in which I can volunteer my time and resources to make a difference.  

I know our community is hurting, angry, confused, and frightened.   But we are also not powerless: the tools of law and advocacy that our education provides can be used to counter oppression with justice and conflict with peace.  In the days and weeks ahead, please join me in searching for more opportunities to use those tools to make a difference.



Barb Glesner Fines

Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

University of Missouri Kansas City

School of Law

500 East 52nd Street

Kansas City MO 64110

(816) 235-2380


Published: Jun 9, 2020